Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

Historically accurate? Well…. Probably not. But I don’t think that the filmmakers behind Universal Pictures new picture ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ were exactly shooting for historical accuracy here. I remember being just a little bitty boy sitting with my mother watching that wild and crazy Alistair Cooke as he hosted Masterpiece Theater on PBS and ‘The Six Wives of Henry the VIII’. Though this was a looooooong time ago, the one thing that stuck with me while watching that epic mini-series with my mom is that Anne Boleyn’s life ended quite badly. Now if the creatives behind ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ wanted to re-imagine that, then we would really have an issue but as it stands, this film is still a fine piece of melodramatic entertainment.

Anne (Natalie Portman), Mary (Scarlett Johansson) and George (Jim Sturgess) are the reasonably well adjusted adult children of Sir Thomas and his wife Lady Elizabeth Boleyn (Mark Rylance and Kristen Scott Thomas). Sir Thomas however seems to be a tad bit ambitious and with his advancement options pretty much exhausted, he looks to see how he can best use his children to achieve greater prominence. When the word arrives that Queen Catherine has miscarried a son for King Henry VIII and knowing the King’s ‘appetite’ as it were, Sir Thomas along with his brother in law, the Duke of Norfolk (David Morrissey), have decided to use Anne as a consort for the King. Sir Thomas knows that the worldly and ambitious Anne is completely down for this kind of thing and as Mary has just taken a husband, this pretty much removes her from the whole ‘whoring out your daughter’ plan. So despite the vehement protestations of Lady Elizabeth, the two men set in motion their plan to gain favor with the king.

Unfortunately the king, played by Eric Bana, was injured while making a visit to the Boleyn home, largely due to Anne’s impetuousness, which causes her to fall out of favor, but fortunately, I guess, the newly married Mary is there to help the king regain

his health thus placing her directly in his crosshairs. The king summons Mary and the family to join his court, which pleases nobody except Sir Thomas and the Duke, turns Anne against Mary, essentially ends Mary’s young marriage, places George in a completely disagreeable marriage situation and we won’t tell you how Queen Catherine feels about this whole arrangement. Eventually Mary becomes the King’s lover, reluctantly at first, but eventually falling for him. Not that this has ever stopped the scheming Anne, as this revision of history would tell it, to enact her own master plan. So with Mary on bed rest, the magnetic and gregarious Anne plays the role of imperial cock-tease to perfection and snares Henry so completely under her spell that she singly handedly changes the face of… hell… the entire world. Who knows what the hell happens in the United States if there was no Church of England. Anyway, Anne’s schemes all backfire which will lead to her eventual fate, which almost feels like comeuppance here.

Directed by Justin Chadwick, ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ uses historical facts simply as markers and takes generous liberties with pretty much everything else. One of these liberties would be its usage of time as it almost feels this movie takes place over the course of a couple weekends. Historically speaking Henry pursued Anne for over thirteen years before finally winning her over, where here it took about three weeks of Anne’s teasing to send Catherine to a nunnery, get cast out the Catholic Church, get raped and give birth to the Virgin Queen. But then, if I’m not mistaken, the book that this movie is based on is a work of fiction so let’s forget about historical accuracy for a bit and know that ‘Anne of a Thousand Days’ along with ‘The Six Wives’ is available if we need a more accurate view of the House of Tudor during this time.

As a movie, historical elements aside, what we’re watching here is a soap opera pure and simple, and a somewhat tame one at that. The characters are soap opera-esque in that they are severely lacking in and kind of depth, with Eric Bana as the lustful but vacant king, Natalie Portman as the duplicitous selfish sister and little else, Johansson as the puerile princess, helplessly taken advantage of by everybody, and Mark Rylance as the weak minded father easily controlled by his manipulative brother-in-law. Only Kristen Scott Thomas as Lady Elizabeth came across somewhat as a semi-realistic persona in this movie. But as a soap opera with its pretty clothes, beautiful people, lush visuals, grand sets and majestic music it works quite well. Despite the sets and the fake accents and the thundering horses this is NOT Masterpiece Theater and is really just glorified Jacqueline Suzanne with fancy duds. I think ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ would have liked to be more than that, but it’s not, and since my expectations weren’t that high going into the theater, I’m not nearly as upset at its final product as some have so loudly let it be known.

If one lowers their sites and realizes that they aren’t watching Cate Blanchett or Helen Mirren in either of their outstanding performances as Queen Elizabeth and take ‘The Other Boleyn Girl’ for what it is and what it does well, I think you may enjoy this trashy but tame take on a very important time during world history. Otherwise you will be so very sorely disappointed in what ultimately comes across the screen.

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